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Sep 24, 2012

MD Anderson Aims for the Moon

  • The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center says it will spend up to $3 billion over the next decade to target eight cancers by translating research into new treatments as quickly as possible—an effort the institution likens to the U.S. space program of a half-century ago.

    MD Anderson’s “Moon Shots Program” will marry interdisciplinary teams of academic and industry professionals funded and staffed to focus on cancer-fighting efforts ranging from basic and translational research to biomarker-driven clinical trials, to behavioral interventions and public policy initiatives.

    Moon Shots is set for a February 2013 launch, with full implementation expected by mid-2013.

    Six teams of researchers and clinicians have been selected by MD Anderson to target acute myeloid leukemia/myelodysplastic syndrome, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, melanoma, lung cancer, prostate cancer,and triple-negative breast and ovarian cancers.

    The teams were chosen based on criteria that assess not only the current state of scientific knowledge of the disease across the entire cancer-care continuum from prevention to survivorship, but also their strength and breadth, and potential for near-term measurable success in lowering cancer mortality, MD Anderson said.

    Rather than allow researchers or their teams to develop their own support infrastructure, Moon Shots envisions a single set of technology platforms for use by all teams incorporating adaptive learning in genomic medicine, big data, community-based cancer control and prevention efforts, clinical genomics, diagnosis development, data analytics, and early detection via imaging and proteomic technologies.

    In addition, a new Center for Co-Clinical Trials will test new drugs or combinations using mouse cells or cell models of human cancers. New institutes will specialize in developing effective targeted cancer drugs and personalized cancer therapy. Patient biospecimen collection will be centralized to profile genes and proteins, identify mutation, and predict therapy-related toxicity. And, to speed up drug development and clinical trials, a new translational research framework will be adopted.

    Funding for Moon Shots will come from institutional earnings, philanthropy, competitive research grants and commercialization of new discoveries. MD Anderson says the program will not disrupt its existing roughly $700 million-a-year research program in all cancers.

    "Generations later, the Moon Shots Program signals our confidence that the path to curing cancer is in clearer sight than at any other time in history," Ronald A. DePinho, M.D., MD Anderson's president, said in a statement. "Humanity urgently needs bold action to defeat cancer. I believe that we have many of the tools we need to pick the fight of the 21st century."


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